TE, Virginia Tech
Weight: 257 lbs.
Arm Length: 32 1/2″
Hand Size: 10 1/8″
Minnesota’s offense has lacked a true red-zone mismatch for a long time, and general manager Rick Spielman addressed it with sixth-round selection Bucky Hodges.
Although he’s listed as a tight end, Hodges played more wide receiver than tight end at Virginia Tech. He often split out wide or in the slot and was a nightmare mismatch all over the field.
His combine numbers are nuts for a man of his size — 4.57 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical leap and a 134-inch broad jump. He truly is the prototypical athlete for a go-up-and-get-it receiver.
Hodges used that enormous catch radius effectively at Virginia Tech to make sensational plays on the regular, using his ball-tracking skills to high-point “jump ball” throws. He was simply too quick for linebackers and too big for defensive backs.
While Hodges is extremely gifted athletically, he is still a raw prospect. His route running is sketchy and needs to be tuned. He’ll often float instead of making cuts. As a blocker, Hodges generally overwhelmed defensive backs but didn’t show the strength to have consistent success against linemen or linebackers.
Pat Shurmur has generally featured tight ends in his offense often. Kyle Rudolph didn’t experience a career season in 2016 by coincidence.
With that said, Hodges’ role may not be at tight end as much as it will be simply a receiving weapon. The Vikings faithful has begged for a big-bodied receiver for red-zone situations for a long time. Laquon Treadwell was supposed to be that, but he is still unproven. And even if Treadwell starts to show potential, Hodges measurables may make him the better option anyway.
Hodges also fits in nicely with Rudolph, who combines both receiving and blocking, and David Morgan, a blocking-oriented player, in the tight end group.
Spielman found another gem of a value here in the sixth round as Hodges fell from his mid-round projection. He continued to trade down until he knew he could get maximum value for Hodges.
Of Minnesota’s draft picks, Hodges represents the biggest wild card in terms of a career outlook. His floor is very low and his ceiling is very high. Hopefully, learning from Rudolph will push him to the latter end of that spectrum.
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